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The real reason David Arquette was a bad idea
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By Paul Herzog

I wanted to wait a couple of weeks before chiming in with my opinion on the “David Arquette as World Champion” hullabaloo, because it seemed that most people writing about it were either treating it like it was the end of the world or playing it as pure entertainment, making light of the traditions of a sport that many people take very seriously. So, now that everyone is sick of the topic and nobody wants to hear about it anymore, I figured I’d step in with my two cents.

WCW has done so much to ridicule the history of the sport, that the idea of David Arquette in a title lineage with Lou Thesz and Stranger Lewis didn’t bother me terribly. That chain was crushed a long time ago, no matter how their Web site wants to spin it. Gorgeous George did promotional matches against the likes of Burt Lancaster 50 years ago, so putting a celebrity in with the biggest star in the sport isn’t a new idea. Of course, one can argue that Burt Lancaster was the epitome of Hollywood masculinity at the time, whereas David Arquette isn’t any bigger than his wife, who is the smallest person on “Friends.”

But to get to the point, the fact that nobody wants to hear about it anymore is pretty much precisely the point of WCW’s failure. The appearance of Arquette was designed to be a cross-promotion with the WCW-produced Ready to Rumble movie. In an ideal situation for WCW, the movie would have been grossing very well for a couple of weeks, and when the box office started to drop off, Arquette comes on Nitro and re-energizes the film. People that didn’t see it the first time would to. People that saw it once would see it again. The movie would have some momentum for a few more weeks, carrying WCW through the Slamboree PPV.

In reality, none of these things came true Ready to Rumble was a critical and box-office disaster, and as a fan of his work, I hope that it isn’t a career-killer for Oliver Platt. He was good as the sidekick in A Time to Kill and Bulworth, amongst others. If Arquette wasn’t a 1-800-CALL-ATT gimmick on the level of a Joe Isuzu or the guy who talked really fast in Federal Express commercials, one could have the same fear for his career as well. The movie’s initial weekend went poorly, and then downhill from there. By the time two weeks passed and Arquette appeared any hope of fulfilling the objectives for bringing him in were long gone. And yet, Bischoff & Russo went along with the plan. Would it have been so bad to just have Arquette assist Diamond Dallas Page in winning the world title in their “mixed tag” match, and then disappear gracefully into the sunset? They put the title on Arquette, made him part of the Slamboree main event, then had a nonsensical heel turn, with the title ending up on Jeff Jarrett. The roadmap to the PPV (DDP and Jarrett in a cage) could have been exactly the same without Mr. Courtney Cox, and yet, there he was, with a hyper kinetic smirk on his face and deafening indifference from the audience.

In an interview just before his recent return, Eric Bischoff said that he had spent a lot of time during his absence analyzing the mistakes he made. The implication being that he wouldn’t make them again. One of the biggest mistakes, in my view, was an overemphasis on cross-promotion, especially some of the disastrous musical appearances. It went back further, than Chad Brock and Master P, back to Bret Hart having to wrestle some guy from Fox’s Mad TV. It hurts your product when you treat someone lower than you as an equal. This is true throughout all industries, but no more so in the entertainment world. That’s why movie stars fight so hard for billing and promotional push when a movie is released. That’s why successful shows typically fight their network’s attempts to cross-promote (Chyna’s appearance on Shasta McNasty notwithstanding). Vince McMahon understands that, and for the most part, he’s used celebrities that are of a higher profile than the WWF, going all the way back to Liberace and Muhammad Ali at the first WrestleMania, and continuing through Aretha Franklin and Pamela Anderson and Lawrence Taylor and Mike Tyson.

Bischoff made that mistake again, wandered right into it like Jerry Quarry waiting for an Ali left hook. David Arquette may have been in all three Scream movies. And Ready to Rumble may have been a film produced with, and designed to benefit, WCW. But as a celebrity, David Arquette isn’t at WCW’s current level, and he certainly isn’t where WCW wants to be. When there wasn’t any more blood to squeeze out of the Ready to Rumble stone, he shouldn’t have appeared at all. It’s one thing for WCW to produce bad sport. Even if they produced an amazing product week in and week out, they wouldn’t gain until the WWF does something to slip up. It’s quite another for WCW to produce bad business. It’s inexcusable, far more so than a scrawny gimmick actor holding the World heavyweight championship.

Paul Herzog has spent far too many hours as a columnist for various Internet sources, and the Wrestling Lariat newsletter, over the past six years. He is a systems engineer at Tellabs in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and is lucky to have a wife that likes the wrestling business, too. He can be reached at grapsfan@aol.com.

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